Jay Blades interview: his first TV job & neutral home style
We chat to furniture restorer and designer Jay Blades about charity work, jazz and his surprising neutral home style...
When did you first appear on TV?
The show was Kirstie Allsopp’s 'Kirstie's Handmade Christmas'. I made a Christmas tree out of driftwood for her, which she had collected from the seaside with her children. It just showed how simple it is to create a Christmas tree out of things you’ve found.
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What did you do before that?
I was a community worker. Youth work, mainly working in the area of conflict resolution – so, working with young people who are fighting, and all that kind of stuff, stopping them from committing anti-social behaviour and getting them to do something positive in their community. So it was like youth work / social work.
I ran a charity called Out of the Dark through which I taught young people how to re-work old pieces of furniture, giving them skills that would enable them to go out and get jobs, or make their own money. I was based in High Wycombe, but employed all over – By Thames Valley and the Metropolitan police services.
What has been the most rewarding day of your career?
Working with a young girl who hadn’t smiled for a few years, and after working with her and showing her how to do craft and what have you, she started smiling – her mum was over the moon.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of work?
That would be when I found myself speaking to over 500 people at an event promoting best practice among charities, which was held by the office of the Deputy Prime Minister. But I was so skint at the time, I only had 70p in my pocket, but I did have a train ticket to get me back home! John Prescott was the Deputy Prime Minister at the time.
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It was quite a surreal thing because, as a small charity, you live hand to mouth – you don’t always have the dough! So, I went to this conference about best practice, with people saying ‘these are the guys!’. But they had no idea that this guy only had 70p in his pocket, and didn’t know where the next bit of funding was coming from in order to continue working with young people.
Do you have any passions or hobbies outside of the antiques and furniture world?
Music. Music, music, music. I love classical when I’m in the car, jazz when I’m at home, reggae and soul. I love instruments – anyone who plays the piano, the harp – you name it, I’m into it. The only genres I’m not really into are pop and heavy metal.
So, who’s your favourite artist?
Too many! Ah, I might have to pick two. No, I can’t! I can do one per genre. Reggae – John Holt; Jazz vocals – Gregory Porter; Jazz instrumental – Abdullah Ibrahim; Soul – Luther Vandross. And classical is everything, it relaxes me.
Your designs are very colourful, what is your home like?
My home is 50 shades of beige. The house looks like a show home, very neutral, and that allows me to come out and really enjoy colour. If I lived with colour, the problem would be that I wouldn’t see it as a child sees it. And that’s how I want to see all my creations. As if for the first time.
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What would people be surprised to know about you?
I eat the same food all of the time. I wear the same clothes all of the time, too. If I like something, I’ll buy a few of them. The most excessive example is when I bought ten of the same trousers in the same size. But the food is definitely the weirdest one. When I’m out and about filming it’s almost always chicken caesar salad, when I’m at home it’s either trout or salmon.
If you were ever to find yourself on death row what would your last meal be?
Either chicken caesar salad or shepherd’s pie from The Ivy.
Introvert or extrovert?
I’m an extreme introvert – yeah, I’ve had the test done. It’s mad. They said I shouldn’t be working with young people because I’m that introverted. But I'm also an optimist. You have got to look on the positive side. Always.
Morning person or night owl?
Both. I don’t get any sleep – I’m up at 5 o’clock and don’t go to bed until like 12 or 1 o’clock.
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